Thursday, August 02, 2007
Disabled man crashes van to save himself
MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota -- She spoke Spanish in a quiet voice, still shaken by what her son had been through.

"God and the Virgin Mary saved my son, because otherwise he would have tumbled into the water with all the other cars," Ignacia Cruz told me.

I knew it gave her some comfort to speak in her native tongue about what had happened. I explained that my mother was from Spain and that she could speak freely and I would understand.

She went on: her 26 year-old son, Marcelo, had called her around 6:20 p.m. yesterday to tell her to turn on the news. The bridge had collapsed and he wanted her to know he was okay.

"I began to cry and cry, because this was the 2nd time he was saved," Ignacia said.

Marcelo had already escaped death once as a teenager when he'd been shot in a street fight, a fight that left him paralyzed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair. So unlike all the other terrified drivers on the bridge yesterday, Marcelo had an added problem: how would he get out of his vehicle if he managed to survive?

"He could see cars in front of him falling straight into the water," Ignacia said anxiously, imagining the horror her son must have felt. Marcelo's split-second decision to crash his van into the bridge's wall stopped it from going over the edge, and likely saved his life.

But Marcelo had another problem: he couldn't get out of his van, because it was on a slant and he would have rolled into the water had he tried to extricate himself. Two rescue workers found him soon after and pulled him to safety.

-- By Jordana Miller, "360" Producer
Posted By CNN: 4:06 PM ET
  11 Comments
Jordana

Thank you for sharing this terrific story of hope with us. There are always stories of hope that come out of situations of dispear. It is amazing the greatness that can come out of people when help is needed. God definately has a purpose for Marcelo. Miracles still do happen!
Posted By Megan O. Toronto, ON, Canada : 4:19 PM ET
I'll second that! Thank you for sharing Marcelo's story. I saw a picture of the van with the wheelchair access ramp extended and a group of people pushing what appeared to be an individual in a wheelchair up the pavement. Praise God that Marcelo kept his wits about him and that he was able to get his van turned into the wall and that his rescuers found him and helped him get to safety!
Posted By Lisa : 4:47 PM ET
I believe CNN has a photo of this brave man's van.
Look at the I-Reporters photo, number 9, curtesy of Mark Lacroix.
Posted By Alex J. : 5:08 PM ET
We have seen interviews already being played over and over on cnn today. There's something wrong with sticking a microphone in someone's face whose family member is missing. It seems cnn has found that one emotional hot button they look for. And they show that video over and over. That is the height of exploitation.
Posted By Marle Y., Milwaukee, WI : 5:30 PM ET
Thank you so much for covering this story!

The National Organization on Disability provides excellent resources on emergency preparedness that include persons with disabilities in the planning process.

Julia Washenberger
New Brighton, MN
Posted By Anonymous : 5:32 PM ET
Jordana/AC360:
Yes, the news coverage is about the bridge collapse, but the real story is about the people who will be forever affected because they chose to travel home on a regular route hidden with deadly defects.

Thank you for sharing the story about Marcelo. CNN is doing a great job with the news coverage.
Posted By Sharon, Indianapolis, IN : 5:50 PM ET
This news story is ridiculous. If the angle were that a quick-thinking man likely saved his own life by choosing to wreck instead of drive over a collapsed bridge, I would understand.

However, this particular man's disability has nothing to do with the issue--he can clearly get in and out of the car on his own, so the notion that his impairment somehow disabled him more than any other temporarily-abled person would have been in the same circumstance is based upon cultural assumptions about people with disability. The author is relying upon the audience sharing the assumption that someone who uses a wheelchair is less-likely to get out of the car than one who does not. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that this assumption is true.

The ableist bias of the author comes through in the phrase
"confined to a wheelchair."

Frankly, I expect more from a major news source, but I am not surprised when I am left underwhelmed.
Posted By jkupetz : 5:58 PM ET
Did I just hear right on CNN interview with Gov and Mayor that removal of debris in order to search for victims will not be accomplished until the experts have inspected the wreckage (in order to try and determine what caused the failure)?
This was not something the families waiting for news wanted to hear. What are they thinking?
Posted By C. Schwartz : 6:00 PM ET
There is something we can do as individuals to make ourselves safer on America's bridges and it won't cost a cent. Practice safe following distances as outlined by most state departments of motor vehicles. This will reduce the load on most heavily travelled bridges by more than 50%. This will reduce the risk of this type of collapse dramatically. It's good practice anyway... We must accept responsibility for our own safety. God bless all those affected in this latest disaster.
Posted By Curtis II Junction City, Ks : 8:35 PM ET
As someone with a disability and in a wheelchair my first thought when I saw the news of this bridge collapse was that disabled people like myself and Marcelo would not have a very good chance of survival. I'm glad to hear that one did - you don't realize how much of a disadvantage you are at until you can't walk and are confined to a wheelchair. Most people could wreck their car into the side to stop it and then walk out - for those in a wheelchair you have something else to worry about rolling down off the bridge.

Thank you for this story. And thanks to the person for posting the link in their comments about the info for the disabled on how to cope with situations like this.
Posted By Suzanne Pratt, Knoxville TN : 10:32 PM ET
I can't even imagine how these people felt when this happened. People crashing down with bridge, and then seeing your life flash before your eyes like this man and doing the only thing he could before falling into the water. That's a brave decision to crash first without much time to think! What an amazing story.
Posted By Mai : 12:59 PM ET
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